Today’s City Cars—like the SmartCar, and Fiat 500, can track their lineage to the Microcar—those tiny, somewhat bespoke, and artisan vehicles which rose from the rubble of post World War II Europe. With a shortage of food, materials, electricity and gas, the economy needed new vehicles that were practical to this environment. Post-war Microcars were created by innovative, resourceful Idea People. They were imagined by bright, talented engineers, many out of the former aircraft industry, who put their minds to the problems of mobilizing the population under adverse conditions.
Today we introduce the first in a series paying due respect to the cars, and car makers of this era of European Microcars. Today, say hello to the microcars of Messerschmitt.
German aircraft manufacturer Messerschmitt was known for their fighter planes during World War II. Post-war, the company was not allowed to make military aircraft (as Germany was not allowed to have an air force), so it turned to the idea of making small motor vehicles—Micorcars to service a population in need. The company started making cars in 1952 but slowly lost interest once the company was allowed to resume the manufacturing of aircraft in the late 1950’s. Vehicle production ended in 1964. It was a magical moment in post WWII microcar history.
Messerschmitt created the KR 175 as a bare “scooter with a roof.” But the 1959 KR 200 Sport we are highlighting today was a bit more luxurious, even though it still lacked interior panels, a heater, hubcaps, or a clock. It even lacked a front windshield and a door. Yes, entry was “over the side,” and the fixed side panels were lowered by four inches to facilitate this. A small Plexiglas windscreen and tonneau cover provided token weather protection, mostly when parked. A tonneau bar was used to hold the cover open for just the driver. Interior trim panels looked standard, but they were unique to the car, with slight alterations to suit the new body. The car was equipped from new with the very rare, factory, extra-low Tiger seat without the usual parallelogram lifting arms, giving an ultra-sporting driving position. It was called the “special seat for tall drivers.”
The 1959 Messerschmitt KR 200 Sport may be one of the rarest of the Messerschmitts, but it is a great example of the post-war bare-bones and resourceful design of the time. It is one of favorite micorcars. The car highlighted in the photos here was just sold at auction for $92,000. So, I guess we’re not the only fans of this microcar.
Photo credit: Darin Schnabel © 2013 Courtesy of RM Auctions” Car referenced in photos was sold as part of the Bruce Weiner Microcar Collection by RM Auctions February 15-16, 2013 in Madison, Georgia.